DAILY INSIGHT: How the past can inform the future - Tech Learning

DAILY INSIGHT: How the past can inform the future

What are the stages of innovation? And how can we get there?  
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By Carl Hooker, CIO Advisor

Recently, I had an opportunity to meet with Harvey Barnett, former tech director of Cupertino USD. Doing a Google search of Harvey turns up little, until you include the word "apple." It turns out, Harvey was acting principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School, one of the first Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) back in the 1980s. What did ACOT do? It was one of the first longitudinal studies to focus on learning rather than technology. Its premise was that through increased access to technology, learning, problem-solving skills, and knowledge to content increased. The basis of ACOT was a simple question:

What happens to students and teachers when they have access to technology whenever they need it?

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? The proliferation of 1:1 programs across America is based on this similar question, while they may not state it so plainly. Mr. Barnett's approach as building principal and then later as technology director was the same: How do we learn with computers, not just from them? That's a challenge we have been facing on a daily basis during our 1:1. I've written about SAMR and how substitution is the first level teachers begin at with 1:1 technology. Turns out, that phenomenon has been happening since 1985 as well during the beginning of ACOT.

Education has embraced the project-based concept of teaching, but the research from ACOT would suggest—rather than an "all or none" strategy—that there should be a balance between instruction and construction. Mr. Barnett mentioned many challenges familiar to me during the beginning stages of this, including teachers opting out of using the technology or being hesitant to use it for fear of failure. His primary bit of advice for this challenge was to give that hesitant teacher an opportunity to see it work. He stressed how important it is to have time and professional development, but that above all, he saw rapid transformation when teachers had opportunities to observe peers use the technology ubiquitously. That's a challenge many of us face. How do we fund the time and training other than the summer and an occasional conference that's primarily attend by the early adopters rather than the objectors?

One of the staples to getting those objectors on board is the theory in Geoffrey Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm. I've spoken about this idea before but never known the basis of the research until today. While his theory is based on technology adoption and success, Mr. Barnett nicely ties Moore's concepts to teacher professional growth. There are innovators, pragmatists, conservatives, and skeptics. Once the innovators have convinced the pragmatists that the technology solves a problem for them, the conservatives are likely to follow.

Much like the SAMR model, Mr. Barnett recognized similar stages based on research by Ellen Mandinach that teachers will go through during a technology implementation. While these are from ACOT research from 1985-1995, it's incredible how much of it rings true today.

Mandinach's Stages of Technology Integration with Teachers

1. Survival Stage - All teachers, from visionaries to skeptics go through this stage. Teachers at this stage find real struggle against technology. They know it will take work, might not always work for them, and in some cases, might actually fail on them in front of their students and lead to subsequent embarrassment. You hear phrases like, "I don't have the time to work on this" crop up quite a bit during this stage, especially if other initiatives are taking place. The primary teaching method during this stage is strictly lecture-based instruction.

2. Mastery Stage - At this stage, teachers are more comfortable with the unpredictability of technology. Teachers begin to lecture less and guide student learning through a project-based approach more often. Teachers begin to see technology as a way to solve problems, not just a scheduled time in the lab.

3. Impact Stage - At this point the classroom is learner-centered with the teacher acting as a facilitator. Lessons will still address content standards, but the method of delivery is mostly project-based. Technology supports these standards and, in fact, enhances it over the traditional textbook.

4. Innovation Stage - The holy grail of learning happens during this stage. Teachers see the students as both teachers and learners. Teachers develop lessons and project-based objectives with technology infused into instruction. Assessments, portfolios, projects, etc., all involve student use of technology and access on a regular basis.

After looking at Mandinach's stages, I realized that we are a far way off from innovation, but not as far off as one might think this early into a 1:1 implementation. Teachers are planning and meeting to discover ways to integrate technology in their classrooms. While still primarily teacher led, the instruction has started to shift to the students. This type of urgency and shift didn't happen with Interactive whiteboards, projectors or document cameras. It didn't even really happen with computer labs. It's happening now, because students have the tools and access all day. So how do we help get the teachers get from Survival to Innovation? Barnett presented these six ideas along with the four stages on this presentation from 2002:

1. Inspire and support leaders.

2. Teacher-driven, bottom-up decision making

3. Incentives for risk-takers.
4. Emphasize process over product (this is a biggie!)

5. Recognize the need for time.

6. Provide access to appropriate hardware and software.

While we spoke more about these items and many others during our hour-long visit with Mr. Barnett, it seems like many things have not changed from the ACOT days to the 1:1 tablet revolution taking place today. The essential question remains the same: We can get kids to learn from computers, but now how do we get them to learn with them?

More resources: ACOT2 - Apple's update to the research

Carl Hooker is director of instructional technology at Eanes ISD in Texas and blogs at Hooked on Innovation, where this is cross posted.